Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Here Comes the Windup, and the Pitch: Baseball Haiku

Poetry comes in all shapes and forms, from ballad to sonnet and epic to comic. One favorite for many contemplatives who appreciate the form is haiku.

While perusing the shelves of our local library my eye caught two words on the yellow spine of a book on the 811 shelf: Baseball Haiku. The elegant hand-sized volume features an illustration of a pitcher staring down from the mound toward home plate, a baseball gripped tight behind his back. The book's subtitle: The Best Haiku Ever Written About the Game.

I always chafe at these kind of claims, the best this or the best that. But it was certainly fun to crack the spine and taste the flavor of a few of these little gems. I knew instantly that I would be bringing it home with me.

Here are some sentences from the introduction.

Haiku and baseball were made for each other. The few words of a haiku can bring to life a pitcher rotating the ball behind his back as he looks in at the catcher's sign or they can reveal the over-confidence of a rookie getting picked off at first.

Fans of haiku will want this book for it’s outstanding haiku. Fans of baseball will want it for the way the haiku let them relive the joys and the sorrows of the game. The unforgettable images that pop up out of the pages of this collection capture the actions and atmospheres, the moods and tensions, the weathers and memories of America’s national past time--and Japan’s.

Yes, just as Japan has imported a love of baseball from us, so Americans have imported a love of this distinct poetry form from Japan. I think it's a pretty fair trade when two cultures can share an appreciation for something they each created, and love.

The imagery of some of these pithy little baby's breath-sized flowers is vivid in its profound simplicity. Try this one, which by its very specificity evokes a distinct memory.

rainy night
a hole in the radio 
where a ballgame should be

That one brought to mind my little robin's egg blue transistor radio with which I used to listen to Cleveland Indians games in the back yard. Here's another in which you can feel someone's pain.

change of pitchers
the right fielder puts his glove
over his face

This one carries an alternate mood.

Home run trot --
the batter's eye a tape
measuring the distance

The cover copy on the back of the book declares that baseball and haiku were made for each other. If you can find a copy of the book and sift through it, you will likely draw the same conclusion.

The poems aren't just about Major League Baseball. They include Little League and sandlot moments, too. As well as metaphorical images like this one.

new girlfriend
safe
at first

The fun in these little gems is often how the last line gives the first lines an O Henryesque twist. It's pure pith.

We're only just over two weeks away from Opening Day for the 2020 season and for the third year in a row all 30 teams will be in action that day. Are you ready?

Related Link
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Wilde Observations #20
Wilde Observations #37

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